From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
"Here I met with many sea commanders, and among others Captain Cuttle, and Curtis, and Mootham, and I, went to the Fleece Tavern to drink; and there we spent till four o’clock, telling stories of Algiers, and the manner of the life of slaves there! And truly Captn. Mootham and Mr. Dawes (who have been both slaves there) did make me fully acquainted with their condition there: as, how they eat nothing but bread and water. At their redemption they pay so much for the water they drink at the public fountaynes, during their being slaves. How they are beat upon the soles of their feet and bellies at the liberty of their padron. How they are all, at night, called into their master’s Bagnard; and there they lie." --Samuel Pepys
White slavery is a term that is currently used to refer to sexual slavery, otherwise called forced prostitution. It was first used in 19th century Britain to refer to child prostitution in the 1885 Eliza Armstrong case. While for the largest part an urban legend, there is a factual background to white slavery.
Urban legend and moral panic
By the beginning of the 20th century, the term also came to mean the abduction of white girls into forced prostitution, and after about 1905 it was used for this definition almost exclusively. "White slavery" was the focus of a major moral panic in the United States at the end of the Progressive Era. Although sexual slavery did and still does occur, "white slavery" is usually used to refer to this moral panic, where there was a perception that this form of abuse was a danger to every young woman. James Metcalfe in Life Magazine in 1913 said:
- "What is called white slavery has now become a favorite topic of dinner table conversation in "our best circles." It is not yet being made on the children's games in the kindergartens, but doubtless will be before long. The stage, always looking for new material and new territory to invade, has seized upon this luscious topic with avidity."
In the United States, Chinese immigrants were particularly stereotyped and demonized as white slavers and were referred to as the yellow peril during this time. As an example of this in American culture, the musical comedy Thoroughly Modern Millie features a Chinese-run prostitution ring. The gangster movie Prime Cut has mid-West white slaves sold like cattle. In Christian Europe, on the other hand, the predominant stereotype linked the term to Arab slave traders and Ottoman harems. The theme of a European woman kidnapped to be sold into a Muslim harem also reappears frequently in contemporary American erotic literature.
The United States White-Slave Traffic Act of 1910 prohibited so-called white slavery. It also banned the interstate transport of females for immoral purposes. Its primary stated intent was to address prostitution and immorality. The act is better known as the Mann Act, after James Robert Mann, an American lawmaker.
“As unimaginable as it seems, slavery and bondage still persist in the early 21st century. Millions of people around the world still suffer in silence in slave-like situations of forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation from which they cannot free themselves. Trafficking in persons is one of the greatest human rights challenges of our time.” - U.S. State Department Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2003 
Arab slave trade
- In North Africa, the main slave markets were in Morocco, Algiers, Tripoli and Cairo. Sales were held in public places or in souks. Potential buyers made a careful examination of the "merchandise": they checked the state of health of a person who was often standing naked with wrists bound together. Prices varied according to the slave's quality. White women were considered more valuable than other women, see Arab slave trade.
White slavery in orientalist art
- Circassian beauties
- Slave market
- Forced prostitution
- The Greek Slave (1844) - Hiram Powers
- History of slavery
- Zwi Migdal
- The Lustful Turk
- Eliza Armstrong case
- Thoroughly Modern Millie
- Mrs. Warren's Profession